Violence is never OK

Having left Argentina after an abusive relationship, Valeria Etchudez began building a new life in Cork. She tells SHAMIM MALEKMIAN about her new documentary which shows Cork women’s solidarity with their Latin American sisters in the fight against violence
Violence is never OK
Valeria Etchudez (standing) with Liz Madden, pictured right.

BEFORE she moved to Cork city, Valeria Etchudez had lived under the shadow of death for so long that she had forgotten how to live.

Now, after two years residing in the city, the young woman says she finally feels safe enough to focus on living.

“When I moved to Ireland, the first impression I had was to stop feeling afraid in broad daylight, and I thought that all women deserve to live,” she says.

Valeria is part of a grassroots movement organised by Latin American women who have vowed to fight violence against women. The campaign is called Ni Una Menos, which translates as Not One Less.

Cork women’s support of Valeria and other Latin American women in Cork compelled Valeria to make a documentary to depict Cork women’s solidarity with their Latin American sisters.

Valeria has chosen the name, #NiUnaMenos: Something You Might Not Know, for her film.

Back in Argentina, being taunted and humiliated by her ex-partner was a part of Valeria’s everyday life.

“I met a guy who was always telling me awful things about me and my body and how nobody would ever love me.”

Valeria lets out a long sigh, trying to recount the nightmares that she tries to forget every day.

“The last time I saw him, I just wanted to explain how bad his behaviour was, but he physically assaulted me.”

Valeria felt guilty because she was the one who had gone to the man’s home the day he turned physically violent toward her. She was so embarrassed that she could not work up the courage to report the incident to the police or talk about it to her parents.

Liz Madden on the Set of Valeria Etchudez's documentary.
Liz Madden on the Set of Valeria Etchudez's documentary.

“For a long time, I thought that it was my fault,” she says.

According to reports released by Argentina’s High Court in 2016 alone, 254 Argentinean women died from gender violence.

In 2011, an Argentinean woman called Maira Maidana was doused with alcohol and burned by her partner on Christmas Eve.

In another incident, a Mexican woman’s naked body was found in a garbage field.

These incidents, known as ‘femicide’, ignited massive demonstrations across Latin America in 2015. The term femicide refers to the misogynistic or intentional killing of women.

The Not One Less movement has gathered global momentum, and Cork women were quick to declare their solidarity as well.

“The Irish women were wonderful to me and showed me so much empathy in this fight against violence towards women, and this has given me hope,” says Valeria.

The young documentarian thinks Ireland, as one of the safest countries for women, is the perfect place from which she can send her message to the world. Ireland ranks 15 on the list of the best countries for women on earth. County Cork has one of the lowest crime rates in the country as well.

Latin American women in Cork who have participated in Valeria’s film had the same reasons as her for fleeing their countries.

“They want to be able to choose the type of clothes they want to wear without being abused because of it,” Valeria says.

The Not One Less campaigners have made a poster of the lewd remarks Latin American women are subjected to on the streets if they choose to wear revealing clothes. Valeria hasn’t been afraid since the day she has moved to Cork.

“I don’t feel like someone is going to hurt me when I’m walking home from work anymore,” she says. “Here I can just relax and be myself.”

A survey conducted by activists of the Not One Less campaign showed that 97% of the Latin American women surveyed had endured harassment either in public or at home.

In one of the most recent incidents of femicide in Argentina, the naked body of Micaela Garcia, a 21-year- old student and avid campaigner of the Not One Less movement, was found in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

Pope Francis — Argentina’s most famous global citizen — condemned her murder and offered his condolences to Garcia’s parents.

Valeria thinks that she would be judged and called a ‘feminazi’ at home for sharing her story but she has decided not to care.

“By making this documentary I just want to show that violence is not OK, whether you’re religious or if you don’t like feminists, we just want to say Not One Less and spread this message,” she says.

“I don’t want any woman to get used to living with fear.”

A short trailer for Valeria’s documentary shows Corkonian and Latin American women expressing their dreams and thirst for life and living it to the fullest.

Úna Hennessy, Maria Butler, Jill Rogers, Leslie Allen Spillane and Liz Madden are among the Cork women who have appeared in Valeria’s film.

Valeria works as a software developer at a tech company in Cork, a profession that requires her to fix problems she can always find solutions for — something that helps her to recover from the trauma she had experienced.

“My philosophy in life is that I can’t fix most of the things in my life but in my work, I can always find a solution, and everything is clear there,” she says.

Valeria misses her family, friends and her city’s sunny beach, but her Cork sisters are helping her overcome homesickness.

#NiUnaMenos: Something You Might Not Know was released in December.

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